Jennifer Lauck is an award-winning journalist and the author of the memoirs Blackbird, a New York Times bestseller, and Still Waters. Lauck has been featured in Newsweek, Harper's Bazaar, Talk Magazine, People, Glamour, and Writer's Digest. Before becoming a memoir writer, speaker, and teacher, Lauck worked for eight years in television news for ABC affiliates from Montana to Oregon. Her investigative reports have appeared on CNN and the ABC Nightly News. Visit her website.
Read Linda Hoye's review of Found & Denise McAllister's reviews of Blackbird & Still Waters for StoryCircleBookReviews.org.
Interviewed by Linda Hoye
Posted on 05/19/2011
Found is a multi-faceted memoir that goes beyond simply an adoption reunion story. What was the main message you wanted to convey with this book?
Mother matters. The word "mother" derives from the word matter: in Latin mater and in Greek m.t.r. Found is a story of my quest to that original home we've all had—our original mother. I want people to walk away from this book having a deeper understanding of the connection between mother and child and the hunger that exists in the belly of the one who is displaced as well as the one forced to let go of her own.
How did the experience of writing Found differ from your experience when you wrote Blackbird, Still Waters, and Show Me the Way? Did you learn anything new about yourself while writing this book?
For a long time, I had no idea I was writing about the quest for my mother. I began all my books with the same question: how can I be a mother and not know my mother? I felt compelled, for the sake of my own children, to understand the source of my own deep sorrow, loneliness and confusion but always believed I was going to heal myself by telling the story of my adoptive mother. I learned, through a great deal of personal resistance, that the healing of my woes would come by contact with my true mother—my original mother. And I learned how my own resistance to that hunger was put into place by a culture that is largely ignorant or perhaps just unwilling to truly acknowledge that the original mother (and family) are very important to a human beings sense of self.
What would you most like people to understand about the adoption experience as it pertains to adoptees?
Adopted people go through a very specific process. We are acquired and we are assimilated. The result is a total adaptation. Most of the adaptation happens prior to the formation of reason and even memory. So many adopted people truly believe and would go to their death in a state of denial about their internal hunger for the truth about who they are and who their original family is. Many adoptees, upon searching and finding, are furiously fast to pass judgment against their original family and to dismiss those people as unworthy—primarily as a way to re-secure connection with the only home and humans they've known—the adopted family. Adopted people, since birth, are in survival mode at some level. They have formed deep patterned behavior, lodged into their brains, that is all about survival at all costs. Self preservation. Being an adopted person is, for me, one of the most painful experiences a human can have. It's inhumane what we do to these children and their mothers. One day we'll look back and realize what we've done but then, of course, the damage will be difficult to undo.
You endured more as a child than most of us endure in a lifetime yet you grew up to become an award-winning journalist, author, speaker and teacher. What do you credit with giving you the strength, tenacity and courage to rise above circumstance to create the life you have today?
I descend from a line of strong, purposeful and accomplished women. My great grandmother was one of the first women in the state of Nevada to get a college degree. My grandmother ran her own businesses and raised four children at the same time. My own mother was a record setting saleswoman. I also come from a highly spiritual family and while we all manifest this differently, we are solid in our belief in service to others and devotion to spirit. Amazingly, I also come from a family of women who are devoted mothers.
The heartbreak of this legacy is that the line of devoted mothers was broken when my own mother was forced to give me up. She was pressured, against her will, to make this impossible choice: "Pick the family and the family support or your own child." I think decision this broke my mother. You cannot ask a woman to make such a choice and expect her to remain whole because of course, she will choose her family and the support of the community, while entering into a lifelong sorrow for her own child. What a life?
I really believe, from where I am at now, which is a slow and tender place of healing that moves between my mother and I—I am alive because she loved me and did want me and at some level, I knew it and by damned was going to make my way back to her. She couldn't come right out and say what she wanted but her true feelings were in her heart.
We now know about this phenomenon called Chimera-ism where it has been proved that fetal cells cross the defensive barrier to enter and circulate through the mother's system and where the maternal cells enter the system of all the children she bears. So—in fact—my cells are (and have been) alive in my mother and hers are alive in me. Her true heart, her true mother love and her true goodness of soul have been there, pulsing in me all this time. That is why I am alive today. I have no doubt about it. There is nothing as sustaining and as pure as mother love.
You appeared on Oprah in 2000 to discuss your first memoir Blackbird. What was your reaction to the recent news about Oprah's half-sister who had been put up for adoption and who was recently reunited with Oprah and her family?
Of course, I had many emotions. My first was sadness for the woman, who was unable to claim her true identity or even to fully connect with her mother but had to take on the identity of being Oprah's sister instead. Her adaptation to the situation presented to her was painfully familiar to me and I ached for all she held inside, as well as for her longing for her mother. I equally ached for the mother, placed on national TV and grilled by her kept child—about "owning up" to a situation that was a source of life long shame for her. These poor, poor people. While I value Oprah and her contribution to women, literacy and the world—she is truly a remarkable woman—she does not understand true compassion and love yet. She has a great deal to learn about love for others and forgiveness. No one, not one human being on this planet has the right to judge a birthmother for her choices unless they too have lived and gone through that experience. These are impossible times, when women and motherhood is of very little value. Adoption is a business that is 5 billion dollars strong in the U.S. And the casualties of this reality are mothers and their young. I hope I live to see an awakening and a shift of consciousness around this crucial sorrow.
Your website refers to Found as your "fourth and final memoir." What's next for you? Is there a book of another genre in the wings?
I am in a deep process with my mother where we are restoring connection and collaborating on techniques that were developed to heal something known as "attachment disorder." This process has remarkable ramifications for me—as I am going through the healing of my own attachment disorder and am re-ordering brain structures damaged as a result of my adoption and the subsequent traumas of my childhood.
My thinking is that I will write a journalistic type of book about this healing work at some point but it is my opinion I am a bit of a pioneer in this area. There is simply so little we know (and will even accept) about the brain and issues like separation trauma. According to the work of therapist Harville Hendrix, we are getting information that indicates most of the divorces in our culture are a result of issues around attachment disorder—an inability to bond and stay emotionally connected. I would venture to guess that so many people—born at a time when the birthing process was medicalized (thus separating babies and mothers as standard protocol)—suffer and need healing at this time. It is my great hope to heal myself well enough that I can write about this topic and offer some relief, via story, research and case studies. I also have a novel I'm working on (for fun).